One of my fondest childhood memories is from my first year in tee ball.
For those of you not familiar with it, tee ball is often the very first baseball league for young players. Instead of having a ball pitched to them, hitters stand and try to hit a ball that sits upon a tee. Often, a player will swing ungracefully several times before making solid contact with the ball ... at which time all hell breaks loose as every member of the defensive team madly rushes to snare the ball in play. Imagine throwing a piece of meat into a cage with nine hungry feral cats.
While I remember very little from my time in tee ball, I remember one particular play quite vividly. It came in the middle of a game as I was playing somewhere in right field. A batter from the opposing team hit the ball from the tee, in the air, directly toward me. I vaguely remember seeing the ball being hit, and I am fairly certain I made no attempt to move in any direction. I simply held up my oversized glove, closed my eyes tight ... and caught the ball.
In tee ball, catching a fly ball is akin to parting the sea.
Of course, at the time, I could not have told you the implications of that catch or how improbable it was. What made the play memorable was the reaction of our coach, Coach Kelly. Coach Kelly charged out of the dugout, ran across the field toward me with arms outstretched and a huge smile, lifted me up in the air ... and hugged me.
At that moment, I knew exactly how important that catch was.
That play, and my entire first year in baseball, could have slipped away into the cloudy abyss of my childhood memories forever had it not been for that demonstration of enthusiasm by Coach Kelly. From that moment on, I was hooked on the game of baseball.
Clearly, enthusiasm is valuable in more than organized sports. Business leaders can and should leverage enthusiasm to motivate teams and entire organizations to overcome challenges and reach improbable goals. Used improperly, however, enthusiasm can become a detriment. Here are four tips to channel your inner Coach Kelly.
Be authentic. Fake enthusiasm stinks like a politician's stump speech, and your team will see right through your artificiality. Be true to the cause and to yourself. Of course, some individuals are simply not as excitable as others, but that is what makes demonstrations of enthusiasm so powerful and awesome. If you aren't particularly demonstrative, try giving in to the inclination to get excited about a project or task at work, and then sit back and watch how contagious it can be.
Be spontaneous. Your team will learn to tune out your enthusiasm if you run through the office high-fiving people every day. Learn to keep your enthusiasm in check and know the best times to really let lose. Sometimes, a random "attaboy" or a morning donut run will be the spark that gets a team excited for the rest of the week.
Be unconventional. Enthusiasm is about making an impression. Learn to be enthusiastic in new ways. Throw an office party, organize a team-building event, bring a karaoke machine (and sing) for an impromptu staff meeting. Like many other things, enthusiasm is best in moderation, so do not get so carried away that you end up losing face in the process.
Be unselfish The focus of your enthusiasm should be on others. A good leader is great at impressing upon a team the importance of a task and making team members feel important and valuable. An enthusiastic leader is good at showing it.
I remember very little from my childhood. But Coach Kelly, sprinting from the dugout and hugging me in the outfield after that catch, still lingers in my psyche. That single play got me so excited about the game of baseball that I played throughout my youth and accumulated an ungodly amount of collectable baseball cards (arguably not a benefit). While my inability to hit a curveball and the allure of college life eventually led to my "retirement," I continued in the sport by coaching little league baseball myself. In coaching, as in business, when I need to lead a team, I often look back at "the catch" for inspiration. And I channel the enthusiasm of my inner Coach Kelly.
Have a story about someone who inspired you personally or professional through their enthusiastic personality? Please share below!